Pets can get injured due to accidents, aggression from other pets, aging, genetic predispositions, and underlying diseases. For pet parents, having an injured dog or injured cat poses plenty of questions like “What’s a pet parent to do?” or “When is calling an urgent care veterinarian necessary?”
Whether you are facing a pet emergency right now or looking to be prepared, this guide covers everything a pet parent needs to know about the most common injuries and incidents faced by dogs and cats — and when to call the vet.
What’s in This Guide?
- Fractures & Ligament Injuries
- Paw Wounds: Cuts, Burns, & More
- Broken Toe Nails
- Bite Wounds & Scratches
- Eye Problems
- Broken or Mobile Teeth
- Gastrointestinal Upset Due to Accidental Ingestion
- Does Your Pet Need Urgent Veterinary Care?
1. Fractures & Ligament Injuries
Fractures are injuries to the bones while ligament injuries (i.e. sprains) involve damage to the connective tissue between bones. Both of these injuries can be caused by accidental falls, collision trauma, or physical trauma. In some cases, ligament injuries or sprains can also be caused by overexertion during play or exercise.
Injured dogs and injured cats with fractures or damaged ligaments will show symptoms like limping, swelling, mobility issues, licking the affected area, increased hiding, or other changes in normal routine behaviors
On the surface, it may not be possible to tell the difference between these 2 types of injuries in dogs and cats; however, a veterinary assessment will be able zero in on an accurate diagnosis through a physical exam and other diagnostics.
Note: Injured dogs and injured cats with the above symptoms of fractures or ligament injuries need to be brought to an urgent care veterinarian. Urgent care veterinary clinics like Sploot Veterinary Care are equipped to handle these types of injuries in dogs and cats.
2. Paw Wounds: Cuts, Burns, & More
From time to time, dogs and cats can sustain injuries on their paws —- whether it’s in the form of cuts from rough terrain or sharp objects; concrete burns during hot days; or chemical burns from commercial ice melts.
When a dog or cat has paw injuries, the cut, bleeding, or irritation may be visible on their paws. They may also limp and excessively lick the affected paws.
Note: Very small cuts can be treated at home — as long as the cut is cleaned, treated with pet-friendly anti-bacterial ointment, and bandaged. Please always place a cone on your pet to prevent licking, as often this can lead to infection. Urgent care would be necessary if there are large wounds or burns, signs of infection (such as thick discharge), and excessive bleeding or pain. When in doubt, reach out to an urgent care veterinary clinic to ask if your pet’s case needs medical attention.
3. Broken Toenails
Broken toenails in dogs and cats are typically caused by physical trauma, snagging on objects, and improper nail trimming.
When an injured dog or injured cat has broken toenails, the break or crack on the nail (and bleeding from the nail) may be visible. The pet may also limp or lick the affected toe and be very sensitive to having the affected foot touched.
Note: Broken toenails need urgent veterinary care if the following symptoms arise: the nail is still partially attached to the nail bed, there is excessive bleeding, signs of infection, and persistent limping or discomfort
4. Bite Wounds & Scratches
Unfortunately, dogs and cats can get into fights with other pets, feral animals, or local wildlife. This is one of the most common sources of injuries in dogs and cats.
An injured dog or injured cat may come back from a fight with another animal and have visible scratches and puncture wounds — as well as swelling, redness, and bruising in some areas. Dogs and cats may also try to lick their injuries or areas that are in pain.
Note: While very small, minor scratches can be treated at home, it is advisable to reach out to an urgent care veterinarian if the wounds are extensive or if bite wounds are noted. Bite wounds are very susceptible to infection, and often cause more extensive damage than is visible on the skin surface. Additionally, if the dog or cat had an encounter with a strange pet (with an unknown vaccination history) or with potential rabies reservoirs (e.g. raccoons, skunks, foxes), it is recommended to bring them to a vet to update their rabies vaccination, even if your pet is fully vaccinated.
5. Cuts, Abrasions, & Lacerations
Dogs and cats can get cuts, abrasions, and lacerations from physical trauma and accidents involving sharp objects and surfaces.
Cuts, abrasions, and lacerations may or may not be easily visible, depending on the affected part of the dog’s or cat’s body. But pet parents may be able to see bleeding, swelling, or bruising under a dog’s or cat’s fur. An injured dog or injured cat may also lick or chew on the wound — furthermore, they may show signs of dog pain or cat pain.
Note: Small cuts, abrasions, and lacerations can be cleansed, and treated with pet-friendly antibacterial ointment at home. However, if the dog or cat has large wounds, excessive bleeding, signs of infection, or difficulty moving, it would be best to reach out to an urgent care veterinarian. Sploot’s veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Deluty further recommends: “Avoid bandaging wounds as tight bandages can cause harm to your pet. Use a cone, bootie, or t-shirt to keep small wounds clean and covered.”
6. Eye Problems
A dog or cat can have eye problems due to foreign objects in the eye, infections, allergies, or trauma to the eye.
Some of the telltale signs that a dog or cat has eye problems, irritation, or injury is when they squint or close the affected eye. Pet parents may also observe redness, tearing, or discharge from the eye. The dog’s or cat’s eye may also show cloudiness.
Note: Owing to the eye’s sensitivity and vital function, any problems related to a pet’s eye are best brought to the attention of an experienced urgent care veterinarian. In addition, put a cone on your pet right away if you notice any of the above changes to prevent your pet from pawing at the eye and causing further harm.
7. Broken or Mobile Teeth
Injuries involving a dog’s or cat’s teeth are fairly common. Teeth can become broken, fractured, or mobile (movable) when a pet accidentally chews on a hard object, or when dental disease becomes severe. These can also be caused by physical trauma from hitting an object or fighting with another pet.
In some cases, a broken or mobile tooth is visible or palpable for pet parents. Other signs to watch out for include bleeding from the mouth, difficulty chewing, or loss of appetite.
Note: In all cases of broken or mobile teeth, it would be best to consult an urgent care veterinary clinic that offers veterinary dentistry — like Sploot Vets. Broken and mobile teeth typically need to be extracted, and our team at Sploot Vets can discuss the treatment process with you.
8. Gastrointestinal Upset Due to Accidental Ingestion
Injuries in dogs and cats are not always brought about by physical trauma. Sometimes, dogs and cats can also be injured internally by something that they ingested — whether it’s a toxin, an irritant, a foreign matter that causes intestinal blockage, or a foreign object that can perforate the intestines. Collectively, these cause gastrointestinal upset.
Gastrointestinal upset involves vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and/or abdominal pain. In some cases, other severe symptoms may arise, depending on what was ingested. Toxins can produce symptoms like loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures.
Note: Regardless of the cause, diarrhea or vomiting that is severe, contains blood, persists for more than 12 hours, or is accompanied by other severe symptoms such as low appetite and reduced activity needs urgent medical attention. For cases of apparent toxin ingestion in dogs and cats, you can call pet poisoning helplines (e.g. Pet Poison Helpline, ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center) for assistance over the phone. (However, if wait times are too long, feel free to reach out to an urgent care veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian.)
Does Your Pet Need Urgent Veterinary Care?
As a pet parent, you may have an instinctual prompting to know when your fur baby needs medical attention. This may be due to sudden severe symptoms, limping, signs of pain in dogs, signs of pain in cats, wounds, or toxin ingestion.
Please know that help is always available. Feel free to reach out to an urgent care veterinarian or an emergency veterinarian to clarify if your pet needs to be seen immediately.
At Sploot, we offer tele-triage to help pet parents decide whether or not a pet needs urgent care and what steps to take — including first aid tips and the safest way to transport an injured dog or injured cat.
Final Thoughts on Pet Injuries & When to Call the Vet
This wraps up our guide on common pet injuries and when to seek urgent veterinary care. If you have specific questions about urgent cases, please feel free to contact our team!
Please make sure to call in advance if you’re bringing your pet to Sploot for urgent care; this allows us to screen your case, give any needed tips on first aid, and prepare to receive your dog or cat when you arrive.
As always, Sploot is here for you every pounce of the way!